Is the figure of the Virgin Mary empowering or harmful for contemporary women? How is her strong presence in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches reflected in women’s lived experiences? What about her meager presence in the Protestant churches who ordain women but do not have Mary as a female saint? This chapter lays out the background for the book’s ethnographic and other materials, arguing for the need for both theological and ethnographic research on Mary. The thin and often negative presentation of religion and religious women in much of gender studies needs interdisciplinary dialogue with the study of religion.